Our trip to Italy reminded me that pasta dishes don’t have to be complicated, and they don’t always have to have “sauce.” For me, some of the best pastas are simply tossed with good Italian cheeses, aromatic greens like arugula or basil, and juicy tomatoes (in summer) or perhaps some sauteed onions and garlic. In the summer, my favorite is a simple pasta with tomatoes, ricotta and fresh herbs.
The secrets to this one are good parmigiano reggiano cheese and a perfectly poached egg. When broken, the egg yolk oozes out to moisten the pasta, combining with the parmesan cheese for a great rich creaminess without any actual cream. To reduce the number of pots, I poach the eggs right in the pasta water after removing the pasta to a bowl. Use one or two eggs per serving, depending on how you feel.
Pasta with Arugula, Onions and Eggs
1/2 pound fusilli or other pasta
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large onion
3-4 cloves garlic
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
a large handful of baby arugula
a small handful of basil (optional)
A splash of white vinegar
2-4 eggs (1-2 per person)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, preferably parmigiano reggiano
More Parmesan cheese, for serving
1. Bring a pot of water to boil. When it has boiled, add a handful of salt and the pasta, and cook until the pasta is al dente.
2. Meanwhile, heat a saute pan over medium heat. Slice the onion and the garlic and, when the pan is hot, add the olive oil and then the sliced onion and garlic to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Saute the onions and garlic, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and caramelized but not burnt. When they are done, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter.
3. In a mixing bowl large enough to hold the pasta, toss in the arugula. If you are using it, tear up the basil and throw it in. Add the garlic and onions on top.
4. When the pasta is done, remove it with a strainer, leaving the pasta water in the pot, and add it to the bowl with the arugula mixture. Add the parmesan cheese on top with a few spoonfuls of the pasta water and stir to combine. Portion out the pasta into bowls for serving.
5. Bring the pasta water back to a gentle simmer. When it is gently simmering, add the vinegar. Gently slide in the eggs one at a time, cracking them first into a small bowl and then tilting them into the simmering water. (You may wish to do the eggs a few at a time in batches.) When added to the water, the eggs will sink to bottom and then, over a minute or two, they will come together (don’t panic!). After about 3 minutes, when the egg whites have set, remove each of the eggs carefully with a slotted spoon and add them on top of each serving of pasta.
6. Sprinkle each serving with more Parmesan cheese, some cracked black pepper and some extra torn arugula or basil. Serve immediately.
Total time: 30 minutes
Makes 2 servings.